This past week saw the 50th anniversary of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most celebrated records. Following the tumultuous recording sessions from which “Let It Be” emerged, The Beatles returned to Abbey Road Studios in Maida Vale, London, to record what would be their last studio album as a band. “Abbey Road” was released on September 26, 1969, to great critical acclaim, yet the end was already in motion. John Lennon had privately quit the band less than a week before the album’s release, and not long after its release Paul McCartney followed suit.
Despite the fact that “Abbey Road” is such a highly venerated record, the context of its recording and release has always been a point of debate. Did the band hate each other by this point? Was it intended to be the last album? Are their hidden messages in the album’s artwork pointing towards McCartney’s death (strange, I know, but a real theory)? As such, there are many quirky, interesting and often unknown facts about this album. For the curious amongst you, here are some of my favorites.
Despite being released a year before “Let It Be,” “Abbey Road” was recorded sometime after the “Let It Be” sessions had concluded. The reasoning for this is attributed to McCartney’s desire to record and film a live performance of “Let It Be” in its entirety. However, tensions between the band meant it ended up being released as a studio album instead.
One of The Beatles’ greatest hits, “Come Together”, was subject to a lawsuit from rock ‘n’ roll icon Chuck Berry. Berry’s lawyers successfully sued Lennon for plagiarising his song “You Can’t Catch Me”.
George Harrison’s “Something” was supposedly inspired by his wife, model and actress Patti Boyd. Boyd is also the inspiration behind Eric Clapton’s hit, “Layla”. Humorously, Frank Sinatra is cited as claiming “Something” is the greatest song written by Lennon-McCartney, despite it being written by Harrison.
The artwork for “Abbey Road” is considered one of the most iconic album covers of all time. Despite its enormous legacy, photographer John Kosh managed to capture the image in just five shots on his film camera that only had six exposures remaining. To this day, tourists flock to the now famous zebra crossing to recreate the cover for themselves, despite its location on a busy main road in the center of London.
Until very recently, many believed “Abbey Road” was intended as the last Beatles album slated for release. However, newly unearthed tapes refute this idea, as they contain conversations between Lennon, McCartney and Harrison discussing a follow-up album and the logistics of releasing a single by Christmas 1969.
Probably the most bizarre piece of “Abbey Road” trivia is the conspiracy theory that McCartney had died prior to the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band”. Theorists claim the imagery of the “Abbey Road” artwork contains clues to this fact. McCartney walking barefoot and out of step with the other Beatles is said to be symbolic of him being dead, whilst the outfits of Lennon, Harrison and Starr are invocative of a heavenly figure, undertaker and a gravedigger. I’ll let you take a look and decide for yourself whether “Paul is Dead” or not. (Spoiler: He isn’t.)
To commemorate the 50th Anniversary, “Abbey Road” has been re-released with a new remix by Giles Martin, son of original producer and “fifth Beatle” George Martin. The 3-disc, super deluxe edition contains the full remixed album as well as two discs of previously unheard and unreleased studio outtakes and demos that lift the lid on the mysterious sessions that gave us one of the greatest albums of all time.
For more information on the anniversary release, visit: https://usastore.thebeatles.com/store/